Companies should look to digital technology to help humans do more innovative work. Today, for example, knowledge workers spend more than 20 percent of their time struggling to find information.xiii Technology will give people more thinking time simply by making search easier. As technology handles routine and time-intensive tasks, people can spend more brainpower on innovative inquiry—questioning the status quo, proposing radical ideas, solving impossible problems, and exploring new ways to drive growth
Advances in digital technology can now help us extend our ability to think and create. Machines have become a lot smarter, not only carrying out tasks we give them but doing so in a more personalized way. They learn from our behaviors and adapt accordingly to our preferences, giving us proactive insights such as suggesting people we should connect with or additional content that might be helpful for us to review. AI and machine learning technologies can now process data with such granularity that they can learn from employees’ digital interactions and deliver personalized assistance. For example, forward-thinking companies today are using technology to help people ramp up on new projects, find colleagues who have the right knowledge and experience to offer help, mine insights from massive volumes of data, and equip people to create high-impact, visually compelling content.
Companies should also reimagine the way people get work done with computers. People can now interact with devices and digital content the same way we interact with each other. Like humans, computers can now see us, listen to our voice, respond to touch and gestures, and help us visualize our ideas. We can also deliver richer experiences. With HD video and 3D and holographic technology, people can brainstorm with colleagues from around the world with vigor and engagement like they are in the same room together. As companies harness these advancements in digital interactions, they will easily bring people together from all around the world and across departmental silos to solve problems in less time and with less cost and hassle.
Inspiring better ways to team
People have always worked in teams. It is a defining characteristic of our species, and human progress has always been at least partly driven by innovations that enable us to work together more efficiently, more effectively, and more productively.
But the nature of teamwork has changed in the last decade, and companies need to give people the right tools for the right tasks. The collaboration tools we offer should meet the needs of a dynamic array of teams. Teams come in all different shapes and sizes. Teams can have two people or 200. Projects can last for two days or two years. Team members can be local or spread across the globe and include vendors and external contractors along with full-time employees. A recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Services study reports that 70 percent of enterprise customers have implemented web-based video conferencing tools, relying on video connectivity tools as one of the most effective ways to bring geographically distributed people and teams together.xiv
And it’s not just how people work together that has changed but also how often. According to the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, there has been a 50 percent increase in collaboration demands over the past eight years.xv Today, people work on twice as many teams as they did just five years ago.xvi There’s a reason teamwork is increasing: When done right, it’s a powerful force for success. People who work in teams tend to be more productive. And when teams draw upon people with a diversity of experiences— such as gender, age, ethnicity, educational background, physical abilities, etc.—they are more likely to come up with breakthrough ideas and effective solutions. Moreover, teams that include remote workers tend to be more productive than teams consisting of just people who work in close proximity.xvii More and more companies are using digital workspaces to bring geographically dispersed teams together quickly and engage members from across the globe.
Research recently conducted by Microsoft offers interesting evidence that digital collaboration and teamwork correlate with business success. Our study contrasted the productivity habitsxviii of companies with the fastest growing revenuexix against a comparison group matched by size, industry, and length of tenure with Office 365.xx We found that fast-growing companies communicate over email and share documents twice as much, are more than twice as likely to have employees collaborating using cloudbased tools, and are three times as likely to use chat-based digital workspaces.
Now, a new generation of digital technology innovation is transforming some of our most basic concepts of how teams are formed and deployed. Instead of creating teams based on hierarchical and organizational structures, intelligent communications and planning tools will enable companies to think about teamwork in much more dynamic ways—as groups that expand and contract intelligently and automatically as business needs change. And as mixed-reality capabilities that blend physical and digital worlds become more mainstream, team members working in distant locations will be able to collaborate through shared experiences that make it feel like they are in the same space.
The ability to capture important information (such as documents, meetings, conversations, plans, and presentations) and make it all easily searchable and accessible (via timelines, capabilities like real-time translation, and other new tools, such as support for working naturally with ink, voice, and touch) will ensure every team member stays fully connected to every aspect of a project that is relevant to them.
Enabling a secure environment
As companies embrace more dynamic forms of teamwork and open information sharing, it becomes even more important for organizations to protect company assets and sensitive customer data. At a time when more and more of business is becoming digital (according to one estimate, 85 percent of corporate assets are already digitalxxi), we are witnessing an unprecedented rise in cyberattacks. In 2017, the number of security breaches more than doubled compared to the previous year.xxii
For businesses, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Today, it takes companies an average of more than 99 days to discover a security breach and about 50 days to address it.xxiii A recent study of 65 companies that have experienced security attacks since 2013 found stock market valuations fell by as much as 15 percent in the most severe cases.xxiv And it is estimated that cybercrime will cost approximately $6 trillion per year on average through 2021.xxv Even more important is the potential impact on trust—breaches that expose sensitive customer information can be devastating to a company’s reputation and its bottom line.
The methods cybercriminals use to attack organizations continue to evolve and increase in sophistication. In turn, businesses have to stay steps ahead—and be more innovative and cutting-edge than attackers. Companies will need to employ intelligent security solutions that minimize the time it takes to identify and address attacks as well as provide multiple layers of defense to protect data, devices, apps, and identity.
Companies can no longer rely on the traditional model of just securing the organizations’ perimeters. With more businesses embracing open, collaborative cultures, they enable an open flow of information from device to device, person to person, and location to location. Sustaining the future of work quires a new way to secure and protect. Security needs to be rooted in identity, and also be more comprehensive and sophisticated, identifying breaches quickly and stopping them before they spread.
This also takes a new way of thinking. For example, many companies now assume their perimeter has already been breached. They know the best bet at staying better protected is to stay up to date with the latest technology. They also take a proactive approach using modern intelligent security solutions designed not only to help companies detect attacks but also to contain and investigate breaches, mitigating intrusions as quickly as possible and minimizing damage.
Identity is one of the greatest vulnerabilities in security today, so companies are using AI capabilities along with biometrics (including voice and facial recognition) to deploy stronger multifactor authentication across their enterprise. Not only are these new tools making enterprise environments more secure; technologies such as biometric authentication make things simpler and more intuitive for the user.
Intelligent approaches to intellectual property are also making it much easier to classify, label, and protect documents based on their content. This protection will travel with information wherever it goes. Advanced tools will even be able to automatically identify and encrypt sensitive information based on company policies.
Today, the latest security advancements are making it possible to create a more secure environment while also enabling the open flow of information, creativity, and teamwork essential for success
Making technology experiences simpler
As companies foster the future of work, IT organizations must embrace this culture change as well. Many IT departments today are moving to more agile, modern IT models that enable businesses to adopt new technologies at the speed of technology innovation.
There are a few reasons why IT culture change and agility are crucial. First, as part of creating a secure environment, organizations need to ensure all devices always have the latest security updates and fixes. This is a critical factor in protecting against cyber threats. Second, companies need to offer employees access to the best tools available. Third, companies need to stay in touch with fast-changing market and customer trends—which means using the latest technologies customers are using.
The good news is recent technology advances are making IT culture change easier. For example, mobile apps and services are increasingly replacing monolithic applications, making adoption simpler as well as more modular, distributed, and streamlined. Companies can easily absorb innovative capabilities without the kind of disruption that characterized application deployments in the past.
Cloud computing enables companies to adapt their available computing power by adding or subtracting capacity and services as demand fluctuates. There’s no question that the move to cloud-based capabilities is well underway. Already, on average, enterprises employ more than 1,400 different cloud services, and their employees use an average of 36 different cloud services at work—including nine for collaboration, six for sharing files, and five for sharing content.xxvi By the end of this year, it is projected that 80 percent of all enterprise IT spending will go to cloud-based apps and solutions.xxvii Also, in 2017, people downloaded nearly 197 billion apps.xxviii That number is expected to grow to more than 350 billion by 2020.xxix
The proliferation of cloud services and mobile apps has untethered data from devices, simplifying technology adoption for organizations and freeing people to move more easily from device to device without losing access to the information and tools they need. Today, companies can begin to bring all their systems, services, and data into an environment that facilitates easier access to people and information, opening the door to much more effective and productive teamwork and collaboration. As an industry, we still have a long way to go in simplifying the technology experience for everyone and making technology adoption easier for IT organizations. Ongoing innovation to make technology ever more intuitive, distributed, and modular will be essential to enable IT culture change and support business agility.
Expanding the Firstline frontier
These four areas represent exciting opportunities for businesses to foster the future of work and empower all workers—not just knowledge workers but also Firstline workers who greet customers in retail shops and hotels, operate machines on factory floors, work on construction sites, labor on farms, and more. The global workforce includes nearly 2 billion Firstline employees, representing about 80 percent of all workers.xxx They are core in almost every industry—the first to engage customers, the face of every brand, and the first to see a company’s products in action.
Historically, access to modern productivity tools and solutions has come to Firstline workers at a slower pace than it has for knowledge workers. But with the era of the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge— and with cloud services and cost-effective mobile devices that can be tailored to specific workplace requirements—comes the unprecedented opportunity to empower and equip individuals and teams in all kinds of work settings. Today, companies can include Firstline workers in the digital transformation journey and, in doing so, drive a better customer experience, improved business processes, and increased employee engagement.
The future of work in action
As the nature of work is changing, the tools workers use in their jobs are evolving to meet new needs and provide new capabilities. At Microsoft, we’re working with customers to empower people and teams with modern solutions designed to help them seamlessly connect with one another, democratize data and analytics capabilities for everyone, and weigh important enterprise considerations like security and compliance. For companies taking advantage of these capabilities, the digital transformation is already having a significant positive impact on productivity, collaboration, innovation, and the bottom line.
With brands like Cadbury, Oreo, Milka, and Trident as well as more than 90,000 employees in approximately 160 countries around the world, Mondelez International is one of the world’s biggest snacking companies. An important foundation for the company’s success is its focus on the business value of standardizing best practices.
In particular, Mondelez International is focused on changing their culture when it comes to internal communications and collaboration. The company wants to break down corporate silos, improve search and discovery, and give employees easier access to colleagues and expertise. An important part of this journey is to equip people with modern tools for collaboration—namely, Office 365 cloud services, which Mondelez International has deployed across the entire organization.
For example, the company uses Yammer, an enterprise social network platform that helps people start conversations, share knowledge, and build communities. Mondelez International has been successful in building collaborative digital communities across more than 2,000 groups that span a range of functions, like Corporate & Legal Affairs and HR to subject matter groups, social groups, and business strategy groups.
The company’s globally distributed employees sometimes struggle with a lack of human connection due to new, virtual ways of working. But with Yammer, Mondelez International has found that colleagues feel better connected. The global sales force, one of the more remote populations who use Yammer, stays engaged with their teams and the company. Sales reps take pictures of their in-store snack displays and broadcast their innovative shelf setups to inspire other in-store reps. In addition, cross-functional communications that include the whole organization are now more frequent, natural, and interactive. For example, in quarterly conference calls for various regions and functions, Mondelez International has opened up “YamJams” to colleagues all around the world. With hundreds of questions and comments, and the most senior members of the leadership team interacting with junior colleagues out in the markets in real time, everyone feels like they are at a virtual cocktail party.